Scott Hanselman

Download SQL Server Express

June 17, 2014 Comment on this post [62] Posted in Tools
Sponsored By

There's a funny blog post about how to download SQL Server Express from Long Zheng. It surprisingly how complex some companies make downloading things. I've always thought that a giant Download Now button is the best way, but perhaps that's just me?

Downloading SQL Server Express is unnecessarily hard, and it's made harder by the new Microsoft Download Center "download multiple files" interface that doesn't include descriptions or primary file recommendations. It should be a list of links, and you should be able to right click and Save As.

(this short link goes directly to this post)

SQL Server 2022 Express Edition (English)

SQL Server 2019 Express Edition (English):

SQL Server 2017 Express Edition (English):

SQL Server 2016 with SP2 Express Edition (English):

SQL Server 2016 with SP1 Express Edition (English):

I've done the HTTP sniffing and work, and written this blog post in the hopes that it helps you (and I'm bookmarking it for myself, for the future).

Download SQL Server 2017 Express

Download SQL Server Management Studio 17.3

Download SQL Server 2016 Express

*This release of SQL Server no longer bundles tools with SQL Server. Tools are a separate install.

Download SQL Server 2016 Management Studio (August 2017) - 17.2 

Download SQL Server Management Studio 17.2 Upgrade Package (upgrades 17.x to 17.2)

Download SQL Server 2016 Management Studio (June 2016 release)

*The installer works for both 32-bit and 64-bit machines and installs Management studio as well as command-line tools needed to manage SQL Server.

Download SQL Server 2014 Express

Download SQL Server 2012 Express

Download SQL Server 2008 Express R2 SP2

You can get back here via Tell your friends.

Sponsor: A big thank you to my friends at Octopus Deploy. They are sponsoring the blog feed this week. Using NuGet and powerful conventions, Octopus Deploy makes it easy to automate releases of ASP.NET applications and Windows Services. Say goodbye to remote desktop and start automating today!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Hosting By
Hosted in an Azure App Service
June 17, 2014 22:29
*Knock Knock*
Scott: "Who's there?"

Voice: "It's Ed from Legal."
June 17, 2014 22:33
Let me take

domain before Scott.
June 17, 2014 22:34
Uploaded to Chocolatey: SqlServer2014Express
June 17, 2014 22:36
Good stuff!
June 17, 2014 22:44
No offence, but the if Long Zheng just searched Microsoft Download Center he would not have had to go through all those hoops:

Maybe a future blog post on Microsoft Download Center to increase awareness?
June 17, 2014 22:46
Peter - Even if you DO get to the center, do you know which one to download? Try it.
June 17, 2014 22:46
I haven't had to download Express in forever but tried to get VS Express for my 12-year-old son the other day so he could write code for the finch robot. It's a very similar problem but instead of Express w/tools or management studio alone, etc you have to decide whether to get the web or windows version etc.

People new to dev and more likely to download Express won't know the difference.

Perhaps links should say something like this?
"Want to create your own website?"
Click here

"Want to write a cool game that runs within a browser like IE?"
Click here

"Want to run an immersive app that will run on your smartphone?"
Click here

"Want to see a cool example of what you could do with this?"
Click here

I did get the download but it was confusing, still don't get DreamSpark connection either but wasn't interested in finding out either
June 17, 2014 22:46
I've always wondered whether I'm the only person who finds this process cumbersome. Thanks for compiling this list, I'm going to hit your fancy new URL from now on. ;-)
June 17, 2014 22:48
@Scott, yes *that* part isn't as good as your page--but no where near as complex as what Long detailed.
June 17, 2014 22:54
I am so happy that chocolatey exists and seems to be getting traction
June 17, 2014 23:11
Might worth including a link to the LocalDb-only install file as well, just today I wanted to download it and took longer than I thought it should have.
June 18, 2014 0:00
Scott Hanselman: Making Microsoft accessible to the common man.
June 18, 2014 0:09
Nice post. But what about x86 edition of SQL Express 2012?
June 18, 2014 0:32
I wonder why they don't use the web platform installer.
It's a great tool which is made exactly for that, and it even has sql server express 2008 in it.
June 18, 2014 0:49
Went through this pain only last week, trying to upgrade to SQL Server Management Studio 2014 for better Azure comparability. Chose the wrong file twice before getting the right one. Had no clue which was the correct download based on the list of files on the MS site. Just lucky, I guess it didn't take longer! Thanks Scott.
June 18, 2014 0:53
Scott, could you include links for editions with advanced services?
June 18, 2014 0:57
SQL 2014 x64 Express with Advanced Services:

SQL 2014 x86 Express with Advanced Services:
June 18, 2014 1:10
After they fix this mess, they could reorganize the SQL Server Setup
June 18, 2014 1:19
I haven't had the pleasure of installing SQL 2012 or 2014, but I really hope they have improved the installation process. It is one of the worst experiences I can remember.
June 18, 2014 1:28
i'm donating 1000 internets to both you and Long Zheng
June 18, 2014 3:04
I've run into similar woes since having to rebuild my VM, so this is a welcome help and quick link. I went one step further and started working with BoxStarter, which allowed me to pull Visual Studio, SQL Server Express, and more into an automated script so I could sit back and install deploy. Here's a blog post I did on setting it up.
June 18, 2014 3:24
+1 for the Management Studio links. I have spent quite a few times searching for that download.
June 18, 2014 6:15
Thanks Scott, this is very useful. As one who develops on and uses SQL express all the time, I found/find the new download process so annoying that I now carry SQL express with me on a USB drive.
Now hopefully I can return to downloading it online as needed.
June 18, 2014 8:32
So glad Scott has put this up.

On numerous occasions I've wasted an hour or two trying to figure this out.

Like @fujiy said, they should fix up the installer next!
June 18, 2014 9:24
Thanks Scott!

I don't understand why they are making this download so complicated...
June 18, 2014 9:28
for 2012, you can install with chocolatey :

cinst SqlServer2012Express
June 18, 2014 10:17
Do you also know how to get rid of these tons of SQL Server programs?

I bought my computer with Win8 in September last year. I never installed SQL Server and I have this in my Programs and Features list:
Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition [ENU]
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Management Objects
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Setup Support Files
Microsoft SQL Server 2012
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Command Line Utilities
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Data-Tier App Framework
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Data-Tier App Framework (x64)
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Express LocalDB
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Management Objects
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Management Objects (x64)
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Native Client
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Setup (English)
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Transact-SQL Compiler Service
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Transact-SQL ScriptDom
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 T-SQL Language Service
Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Express LocalDB
Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Management Objects
Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Management Objects (x64)
Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Transact-SQL Compiler Service
Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Transact-SQL ScriptDom
Microsoft SQL Server 2014 T-SQL Language Service
Microsoft SQL Server Compact 4.0 SP1 x64 ENU
Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools - enu (12.0.40403.0)
Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools 2013
Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools Build Utilities - enu (12.0.40403.0)
Microsoft SQL Server Migration Assistant for Access
Microsoft SQL Server System CLR Types
Microsoft SQL Server System CLR Types (x64)
Microsoft System CLR Types for SQL Server 2012
Microsoft System CLR Types for SQL Server 2012 (x64)
Microsoft System CLR Types for SQL Server 2014
Microsoft System CLR Types for SQL Server 2014

Maybe somebody can tell the SQL Server guys that it doesn't make sense to list a separate program if you can't use it separately without the other stuff. To install/uninstall features of any program you should use the Change button.
I also don't care about old versions. They could be overwritten with the new version whenever any program installs the newer version.

And the same goes for Microsoft Visual C++ 20xx Redistributable of course. I also have 12 of those.
June 18, 2014 12:00
Normally a google with bing search itself takes me to the download center page, which has all but listed items of what you want to download, so that should be ok.

I am surprised, someone visits marketing site and hope to find a direct link to download, aren't we the techie who should know better?
June 18, 2014 12:21
I took this as a challenge and my first attempt I did:
- Click Downloads at top >> Download center (since I was looking for SQL not Windows/Office which have their own specific links)
- Enter in to the search input: sql server express 2014
- Single result shown - click the circular, down arrow icon button to get the download list of files to appear.

Alternatively I tried:
- Enter in to the search input: sql server express 2014
- In results click the big radio button labelled "Downloads" instead of the current "All" selection.
- Single result shown - click the circular, down arrow button to get the download list of files appear.

It was trivial and natural to do either of the above IMHO. So far so good. The only real thing wrong with it is that you just get the raw file names but even from that I could work it out more or less. Don't know what the MSIs at the top were for.

Looking at the full download page the "Details" section explains clearly what everything is. So if MS combined those details in an expandable section for each file and like your links Scott gave nice link text, i.e. the product title (as in the details) not the filename then I think that would pretty much sort it out.
June 18, 2014 12:22
Any similarity with the heavy handed way to try to force Windows 8.1 users to use a Microsoft Account as main logging is *not* accidental.

In the context of the equally heavy handed tentative by the various US justice department to get access to MS servers all over the world, this is becoming a reason for rejecting MS tools and products.

I think a number of MS marketing people should be sent behind the wood shed and shot at dawn. For the good of the company.

June 18, 2014 12:38
As an afterthought, this situation is seriously aggravated bu the lack of a place where I can give feedback.
For instance, there is no way in W8.1u1 to change a (new) wifi network to private if you have UAC maxed on a non administrator account.

No way, as in no way to get even a credential prompt to fix things.

I tried to report this as some sort of bug / usability problem, got lost in a maze of web pages trying to get me to use my "free / payed support options".

This is bordering on autism.
June 18, 2014 13:20
Nice one Scott.
I'm guessing like the majority of dev's I simply though "this really shouldn't be this hard, should it???" but you've done something about it, whereas I... didn't :)
June 18, 2014 16:50
I agree the Download center could definitely use a redesign. It does look a little like the download pages were designed by a team of lawyers, and is not nearly as obvious as your post. I for one never go directly to the download center either.

I search for what I'm looking for and then somehow stumble on to the download page. Then after some time of searching I find the download button. I click it a dialogue pops up with many choices with a list of possible options, of which none seem correct. I close the dialogue. I search for the secret dictionary describing the exe names. Its of course hidden in the minimized detail section on the page (behind the dialog the is in my face). Once I think I find the one I want I either try to remember the name or copy/paste it somewhere. I hit the download button again search for the exe name. Hope I selected the right one, and then download it. Typically I install it then realize I installed the wrong version then start the process over again. That is my typical experience with the download center. It is a tiny bit confusing to say the least. Simple improvement would be longer more descriptive EXE names or descriptions next to them on the dialog box. I would have had no idea WT means "With tools" if your post wouldn't have pointed it out. I think your solution is a good one. I just wish the Download Center did things more like that.

Thanks for making this one tiny corner of the internet a better place.

June 18, 2014 16:52
I hope this post makes it on to Satya's radar and he makes someone actually do something about it. It is ridiculous how complicated MS makes it to download software and how poor the quality of many of their websites are (MSDN blogs, TechNet).

Even the Roslyn CTP, which is from Dev Div and you'd think might be straightforward, required you to download some stupid download manager in order to install it.
June 18, 2014 16:55
Whooaaaah. Best page on the internet in years! Handy :)
June 18, 2014 17:01
If you could do this for the Visual Studio Express Editions, now that would be awesome! All Express downloads in one handy location!
June 18, 2014 20:39

The giant "Download Now" button is a LIE
June 18, 2014 20:50
In one word, excellent.

Thanks, Scott.

'Nuff said.


June 18, 2014 21:01
Great! Now we need this for more of MS's offerings...
June 18, 2014 22:49
This is fantastic Scott - thank you!

I've been through the 10-step rigmarole. You've made the world a better place.

Those guys at Microsoft should jump to give you a job... or something.
June 18, 2014 23:01
Wow unfortunate that this is even necessary. Thanks though Scott!
June 19, 2014 2:29
.com in 2014?

Register the domain!
June 19, 2014 6:37
I like the big fat download buttons too, you just need to check *where* they actually go...
Thanks Scott!
June 19, 2014 12:12
Your contribution in bringing sqlserver12 to us is great. Everything worked just fine on the x64 machine as well as in the x86. Thanks so much!
June 19, 2014 12:58
June 21, 2014 21:12
Sorry, but I don't think it is as difficult as you're all making it out to be.
Then click the "+" beside Details and it will expand to give you details about what the various files are and a description of what you'll find in them.

By the way, you could also just go to
And then type in "SQL Server 2014 Express" in the search box and it will take you straight there.

I guess we're all just too used to being spoon fed ;)

June 23, 2014 19:04
little off topic but omg is not a microsoft domain?!?!
June 25, 2014 3:19
Looks like 2014 version is busted
June 25, 2014 4:27
To concur with Sean Feldman above it looks like they broke the links even for their own installers.

I tried updating SSDT today and this appeared in the log. Error 0x80070002: Failed attempt to download URL: '' Goes to which is broken atm.

The Microsoft page updated today: now goes to now...
June 25, 2014 18:57
I just need SQL Server Management Studio.

Maybe I should get my DBA certification first, but when I go here[1], click the big red DOWNLOAD button and select the file "MgmtStudio 64BIT\SQLManagementStudio_x64_ENU.exe", I get a big old 640 MB self-extracting file. When I run _that_, I get a multiple-menus-deep landing page, which doesn't list "SQL Server Management Studio" anywhere.

I see that among the extracted files, there's a very tempting file called "x64\Setup\SQL_SSMS.MSI", but alas, it won't actually install anything.

Am I stupid?

June 25, 2014 19:02
Apparently, I am. From the landing page, you have to follow "Installation" > "New SQL Server stand-alone installation or add features to an existing installation", which starts another installer, which downloads another installer, which actually installs SSMS. All 1023 MB of it.
June 27, 2014 0:46
Scott, none of these download links appear to be working. I tried the first four and none of them work for me.

Thank for doing this and all of the other good stuff you've done for us developers over the years!
June 27, 2014 8:53
It's amazing how often one thinks they are an idiot and then it turns out that "everybody" is having just as much trouble with such-and-such as one is.

Microsoft websites definitely suffer from a lack of adherence to the SRP.

They are clearly built with numerous competing constraints in mind but typically end up being so convoluted and generalised, as to be specifically useless.

The download sites are a classic example. You can eventually get the job done but you have to grit your teeth and clench your buttocks the whole way through and even then you typically only know whether you got the right thing once you've downloaded and installed the wrong thing at least once.

Downloads are, to me, an aspect of search, and Microsoft just doesn't do search very well at all.

So I typically Google for what I want and then have some blog or another point me at the thing I need rather than relying on insanely decontextualised UI that the MS download centre provides.
June 27, 2014 18:50
Links are not working anymore :(
June 28, 2014 0:12
Fixing the links. They re-released.
July 17, 2014 16:17
Hi Scott,
as already mentioned above, please add a link for the SQLLocalDb.msi files.

2014 x64:

2014 x86:

August 07, 2014 2:31
Scott, could you link to the latest SP release notes as well? I was surprised to find links to the downloads from there.
2012 SP2:
August 17, 2014 23:10
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!!
Accessing the software via Download Center is a pain in the...
August 19, 2014 20:51
Thank you Scott. This is incredibly helpful and saved me a lot of time hunting around for just the SQL management tools package for the 2014 release.
August 21, 2014 22:33
Big download buttons, I loved those. Thank you for ending an unnecessary pain.
August 29, 2014 23:43
This is great Scott. Right now, the download pages are down, but when they get reinstated, could you please update your SQL Server 2012 pointers to reference Service Pack 2, not RTM? Those downloads can be found here (well, they will be, once MSDN fixes them):

August 30, 2014 19:04
You are rocking Scott ;)

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.